Toasted Melon Seeds

melon seedsIf you’re waiting longingly for October to enjoy the savory taste of roasted pumpkin seeds… no need. One of the best kept secrets among frugal cooks is that ALL melon seeds are edible! The seeds from pumpkins, winter squash, watermelon (yes, watermelon), cantaloupe, honeydew, etc. are not only edible, they are chock full of Continue reading

Spiced Cherry Jam

IMG_2161The season for fresh cherries at the market is absurdly brief. When they appear, I buy a few extra pounds for a big batch of Spiced Cherry Jam. The kids like to help, which I welcome – learning canning and preserving methods is a great home school lesson! Cheerful bright red jars of this jam taste like a burst of summer throughout the winter months. Enjoy!

IMG_2157Ingredients (Makes 10 half-pint jars)

10 cups fresh pitted cherries Continue reading

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

WIN_20150724_123445If you don’t like zucchini, well, I’m not sure we can be friends. 😉 In all seriousness, zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables available. It’s also low in calories, surprisingly packed full of vitamins, and a prolific producer in just about any North American garden. This recipe uses grated zucchini. Feel free to use grated patty pan squash, yellow crookneck squash, or any other “zucchini-like” summer squash.

PS – You can grate your extra zucchini now and freeze it in 1 1/2 cup quantities (just measure it into zip-lock freezer bags) to bake this recipe later, if your hammock is calling you out into the sunshine!

WIN_20150724_101403Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves)

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 large package instant chocolate pudding

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

WIN_20150724_103524Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour two bread pans.

Step 2) Combine grated zucchini, almond extract, applesauce, oil, and eggs. Stir until well combined.

Step 3) Add sugar and pudding mix; stir well.

Step 4) Add dry ingredients, a little at a time, until well incorporated. Fold in the mini chocolate chips last.

Step 5) Divide batter between two bread pans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Like just about any zucchini bread, this bread freezes well!

Lemonade Bundt Cake

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Have extra summer squash lurking in your garden? Here’s a fun, summery way to enjoy this plentiful veggie. This recipe works for zucchini, too!

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Ingredients (Makes 1 Bundt cake or 2 loaves)

1 1/2 cups grated yellow summer squash, such as patty pan squash (cut the peel off before grating if the peel is tough)

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 cup applesauce

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1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 large package instant lemon pudding

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

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1 teaspoon salt

For the icing:

2 – 3 cups powdered sugar

juice from 1/2 lemon

2 drops yellow food coloring

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Directions

Step 1) Grease a Bundt pan (or two bread pans) very well.

Step 2) Combine grated summer squash, lemon extract, applesauce, oil, and eggs. Stir until well combined.

Step 3) Add sugar and pudding mix; stir well.

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Step 4) Add dry ingredients, a little at a time, until well incorporated.

Step 5) Transfer batter to pan(s). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 – 55 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 6) Allow to cool in pan(s) for 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, then carefully transfer the cake to a serving plate.

Step 7) In a small bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar, juice from 1/2 lemon, and 2 drops of yellow food coloring. Stir well. If icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Step 8) Drizzle icing all over cake. If desired, garnish with slivers of lemon peel. Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy with a friend!

Dandelion “Honey”

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Everyone on my Christmas list is getting a jar this December… this recipe is that fabulous.  Before we get to the recipe, I should explain a few things.  First, I am a big believer in letting my lawn grow au naturel.  Rain from the sky and an occasional mow pretty much sum up my approach to lawn care, to the chagrin of a few of my neighbors.  This means, of course, that I am blessed with a brilliant display of yellow dandelions this time a year.  Weeds, did you say?  No Way!

Dandelions were imported into the US hundreds of years ago as a nutritious food source.  Dandelions are wildly good for you, rivaling carrots and spinach in their Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Phosphorus.  The entire plant is edible, but today we are focusing on the pretty yellow flower heads.  A quick web search will reveal how dandelion flowers are valued for their antioxidants, their diuretic and antibacterial properties, and their use by herbalists in treating everything from headaches and depression to stomach and menstrual cramps.  Dandelions aren’t weeds… they’re nature’s own grocery store and pharmacy!

Today we are making dandelion “honey.”  The taste is spot-on identical to wild honey, without the hefty price tag.  At about 50 cents a pint (for the sugar and pectin), this “honey” is a real bargain.  It’s vegan, has practically the same glycemic index as honey, and contains pollen (which is where many of the purported health benefits of bee honey originate).  Make sure you pick dandelions from an unsprayed location!  Allow yourself about an hour in the sunshine to harvest enough flower heads for this recipe.

picture1152Ingredients (makes 9 half-pint jars)

8 cups dandelion flower heads (cut just above the base of the flower head, to get all of the yellow and almost none of the green)

8 cups boiling water

6 cups white sugar

Juice from 1/2 large lemon OR Juice from 1 whole, large orange

4 tablespoons pectin powder

picture1154Directions

Step 1) Cover dandelion flower heads with boiling water.  Cover and set aside for at least three hours or overnight.

Step 2) Carefully pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, saving the “tea” and discarding the flower petals.

Step 3) Bring 6 cups of dandelion tea to a boil in a large pot (if you have more than 6 cups of tea, you can freeze the excess).

Step 4) Stir pectin into sugar (the pectin will dissolve more readily this way).  Add pectin/sugar mixture all at once to pot of boiling tea.  Add lemon juice or orange juice as well.

picture1155Step 5) Stir thoroughly until sugar is completely dissolved.

Step 6) Bring mixture to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 3 minutes with stirring, then turn off heat.

Step 7) Follow canning instructions to preserve your dandelion “honey.”  Leave 1/2 inch headspace, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Herb Compound Butter

WIN_20160507_194649‘Tis the season for fresh herbs! Enjoy this vintage post, which offers a terrific and tasty way to preserve your summer herbs for year-round flavor!

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Step 1: Combine 1/2 cup real butter with 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until evenly combined.

Fragrant, beautiful, and delicious, fresh herbs are bountiful in early summer. It’s easy to take Continue reading

Garden Meditations, Part II

garden16.jpgHere at Crowded Earth Kitchen, our garden has undergone an amazing transformation in only 20 days. Take a look!

Our tiny eggplant transplants have flourished, quadrupling in size!

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The tomatillos proved vexing this spring, and were almost lost due to an infestation of pesky aphids. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen we don’t use artificial pesticides, and instead tackled the problem using ladybugs.

Yes, ladybugs.
1500 Live Ladybugs – Good Bugs – Ladybugs – Guaranteed Live Delivery!

For just a few dollars, we were able to release 1,500 ladybugs into the garden. They lingered just long enough to devour the pesky aphids and lay a few eggs. Voila! Problem solved!

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Beans, Tomatoes, Kale, and Potatoes

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Peppers, Tomatoes, and Okra

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Zucchini and Yellow Squash

What is growing well in your garden? What could use a bit of extra love? Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’d love to hear all about it!

Go play in the soil. Breathe deeply, friends!

Portabella “Burgers”

m1I enjoy a good cheeseburger as much as the next person, but I don’t enjoy the 1,000 sit-ups required to burn those calories. That’s not a joke – a hearty cheeseburger will set you back about 500 calories, and that’s without the bun.

For less than 150 calories we can Continue reading

Grilled Carrots

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Perfectly grilled purple carrots

Yes, grilled carrots. We’ve already talked about how healthy carrots truly are, so it’s worth finding fun new ways to enjoy them! Grilling carrots caramelizes a bit of the natural sugar in this root veggie, and the crisp edges are delicious. The trick to perfectly grilled carrots is Continue reading

Garden Meditations

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Some may see a six inch plant… but a gardener sees a patch of lush orange pie pumpkins!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we nurture a big garden every year. Planning begins in late winter with seed sorting and dreaming, followed by starting indoor transplants in very early spring. As seedlings Continue reading

Summer Squash Fritters

squash1Yellow summer squash have taken over my garden – what a delightful problem! Alas, yellow summer squash doesn’t seem to freeze as well as zucchini. We need to enjoy these sunny little veggies fresh, or cook them into something delightful before freezing. This recipe for Summer Squash Fritters accomplishes both – you can enjoy these as Continue reading